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The Need for Youth Voice and “Influenced”

For over 5 years, Project AWARE has been providing programs and services to empower young people to take the lead on issues that concern them. This has included substance abuse, prescription drug abuse, bullying / harassment, teen pregnancy, media literacy, and more. The organization conducts live presentations, workshops and has produced two high quality videos. Please read more about Project AWARE at www.projectaware.net

In the summer of 2008, Project AWARE held its first Summer Film Institute. Young people ages 11 – 19 created 3 powerful PSA’s about issues including peer pressure, teen pregnancy, and role modeling. The PSA on role modeling became the concept from which Project AWARE started to create a dramatic movie short on the subject. The original PSA can be found at the following link:

Project AWARE PSA Link

Over the course of the following year, PSA creators Aleah Graham and Josephine Cooper ages 12 and 14, worked with Project AWARE Players, staff and experienced community members to produce a 30 minute direct-to-DVD dramatic movie short about how parents role model for their kids.

When Project AWARE hosted its second film institute in August of 2009 it became a golden opportunity to help more young people get involved and really make a difference. 15 youth attendees were trained to crew the film shoot with Maine production company, Gum Spirits . The movie, titled “Influenced”, is written, directed and acted primarily by young people. Overall, 100 plus cast and crew made it possible and it addresses an issue that concerns all of us – how adults model for kids.
This is a great example of service learning where teens put their creativity and ideas into action.

America is facing a health crisis.

In a typical high school class today, the number of students engaging in risky behaviors is staggering: seven out of 30 kids are using drugs; 13 drink alcohol; six smoke cigarettes; and 10 are sexually active. Indeed, new data also shows that more than four in 10 adolescents have been offered drugs, and about one in four have been offered drugs at school. (from “Parents: the anti drug”)

Parental modeling is known to influence adolescents’ experimental and regular use of tobacco and alcohol. Children with at least one parent who smokes are more than twice as likely to report tobacco use and for young people whose parents drink frequently they are nearly three times as likely to report alcohol use. (from American Journal of Public Health) And that’s not all. Poor choices about sexual activity, eating disorders, and violence, are all documented as being more likely to occur when it has been modeled for a child at home.

As writer Karen Stephens explains in “The Parenting Exchange”, “the most important lesson … is that role modeling can be an extremely effective parenting tool. It’s easy to dispense don’ts to our kids: “Don’t smoke.” “Don’t drink and drive.” “Don’t do drugs.” “Don’t lie.” It takes much more effort and discipline to practice what we preach. It takes a strong character to give our kids a good role model to copy, because copy us they will. What a disservice we do to them if we only give them self destructive behaviors as a road map to follow in life. If you don’t want your kids dying of lung cancer, a wise strategy would be to stop smoking yourself. (And if you think you can sneak a cigarette when the kids aren’t looking, you are wrong; they smell it.) If we don’t want the kids lying to get out of going to school, we best not lie about taking a “sick” day from work.”

Today more and more “prevention” organizations are recognizing the influence that adults have on youth and consequently why young people are making poor choices. However, it is challenging to make a difference when so many adults are not willing to change their behavior. “Influenced” – a short high-impact dramatic video produced by a collaborative of young experts will serve to wake people up and start a serious conversation about how communities can work together to seriously address this health crisis.

The DVD “Influenced” will be distributed through Project AWARE’s website store and a national marketing campaign. Using dramatic examples of good and bad role modeling, the goal of the movie is to spark a conversation and deeper exploration about how young people are truly influenced by what their parents and other adults do and say, and how negative modeling can cause a youth to make unhealthy choices. Interviews and special feature clips are included which will support community members in getting assistance to explore the topic in more depth. The DVD is packaged with a brief facilitators guide to support presenters in working with adults and young people during viewing follow-up sessions.

Screenings

For a screening in your community please contact Project AWARE at 207-282-5598 or projectaware@maine.rr.com. For a list of screenings currently scheduled please see below:
(Screenings are currently being organized.)

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